Maybe Origins encouraged me to set my expectations for this series too high. After all, a four to five minute short doesn’t exactly lend itself to novel and nuanced interpretations of beloved but two-dimensional characters. It seems quite plausible that I’m being overly critical here.
On the other hand “overly critical” is pretty much my schtick so let’s do more of it.
So episode 4 of Generations covers Lance’s intervention in the Lake of Rage incident in Gold and Silver. He and his Dragonite bust up Team Rocket’s fake souvenir shop in Mahogany Town and storm the base (the GSC male player avatar, Ethan, is shown infiltrating the base at the same time). There’s also a brief flashback at this point, showing Dragonite’s battle with the red Gyarados at the lake. We see the classic security cameras disguised as Persian statues, which trigger an attack by a group of four Team Rocket grunts who, judging by their oddly lurching and swaying walk, are all drunk, stoned or both (if nothing else, this explains why they thought they could take on a Dragonite). When Lance and Dragonite reach the base’s radio transmitters, they are attacked by Petrel, one of the Rocket Executives from Heart Gold and Soul Silver, whose Weezing is predictably unable to fend off Dragonite’s attacks (notably, Petrel doesn’t actually have a Weezing when you fight him here in the games – his strongest Pokémon is a Raticate – but his team when he reappears at the Radio Tower is a Weezing and five Koffing, so that’s a minor detail). Lance calls Ethan’s Pokégear to let him know what’s happening, then has Dragonite smash everything in the control room and free the Electrode powering the transmitters. The Electrode give Petrel a piece of their minds, and we cut to the closing scene: Lance watching the red Gyarados, no longer unnaturally enraged by the Team Rocket radio signal, swimming away into the depths of the lake.
My initial reaction to all this was “yes; that is what happened;” it’s not really anything new, just what we remember from the games. We don’t really get to see much of Lance other than that he’s a very powerful and slightly broody Pokémon trainer who fights for justice. His Dragonite is incredibly strong and more than a little brutal, appearing to relish close-quarters combat. This is at odds with many portrayals of Dragonite as a gentle and mystical Pokémon (see particularly the anime episode Mystery at the Lighthouse), but Dragonite’s been shown in a lot of different ways over the years; this one is a little reminiscent of Iris’ surly, ill-tempered Dragonite from the Black and White anime. Its very direct approach to the Team Rocket problem reminds me of the scene in the games where Lance orders Dragonite to Hyper Beam a Team Rocket goon in their souvenir shop front, and Dragonite (because that’s all you can really do with the sprite art) just slams into him and bowls him over. It also makes sense for Dragonite’s very high physical attack stat in the games.
Jim the Editor pointed out to me that there is actually one very significant divergence between the version of this story we know from the games and the one presented in Generations (aside from Ethan being in the background – clearly a stylistic decision for the whole series, and probably because we’re supposed to fill in the gaps with our idea of who the player character is). In the games, when Lance and Ethan locate the transmitter, Lance is unable to find a way to disable it. He eventually concludes that they’ll have to take out its power source – by battling and knocking out the Electrode, one by one. This is actually a really important moment for Lance as a character; he’s reluctant to fight the innocent Electrode, and hates that his actions will cause them to suffer, but ultimately goes ahead with it for the greater good. Generations just has Dragonite smash all the machinery, setting the Electrode free with no difficulty, which robs Lance of that characterisation. It’s also notable, for much the same reason, that we see his battle with the red Gyarados only briefly in a flashback, and don’t get to see the gradual realisation that what’s happening here isn’t Gyarados’ fault. One final thing we don’t see is the rival character, Silver. In the games, we’re told that Silver – who is there to fight Team Rocket pretty much just for $#!ts and giggles – challenges Lance here and loses to him. This is actually the major turning point for his character. Lance (we infer from Silver’s dialogue later) essentially hands Silver the same verbal beatdown that Professor Oak gives to Blue after he loses the championship to Red, and it takes a serious toll. Losing to Lance and receiving that lecture causes Silver to begin re-evaluating his training philosophy, and begin (gradually and reluctantly) to place more importance on love and trust towards his Pokémon.
Silver’s absence from this segment makes a lot of sense; he’s peripheral to the actual plot of the Lake of Rage incident, and would just be taking up space here. There’s plenty of room for him to get an episode to himself later. It’s unfortunate, though, that we don’t get to see Lance really interact with anyone other than Team Rocket. The events of this episode are, as a result, too simple and straightforward to be really interesting. I think it’s fair to acknowledge that the constraints of space make it difficult to do any more than that while still fitting in all of the events that need to be covered – the red Gyarados, entering the base, triggering the security system and fighting grunts, defeating Petrel, freeing the Electrode – but still… it’s another “eh” from me.